By E.B. Tucker, editor, Strategic Investor
He stared down his opponents, with his eyes barely visible under the broad brim of a Stetson cowboy hat.
He had a rattlesnake with its jaw open and fangs exposed glued to the front of it. With a Texas drawl, he’d tell the other players how he’d killed it himself.
At 6-foot-4 and 170 pounds, Amarillo Slim was the greatest gambler to ever live. He made his first million in 1947 when he was only 19. His unforgettable look helped make poker a mainstream game around 20 years ago.
Slim was so good at poker that he said he was one of only four men who deserved to call themselves players. He won millions of dollars back when a million was considered serious money. He took pots from presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, Hustler magazine founder Larry Flint, and even drug lord Pablo Escobar.
The most interesting fact about the man who popularized mainstream competitive poker was that it wasn’t his first love. Before he played professional cards, Amarillo Slim was a bookie. If the federal government hadn’t banned the transfer of sports information across state lines in 1961, we might remember him for bringing sports betting mainstream.